Ben Joravsky might have been a bit more inquisitive about the issues at stake in the South Loop rather than simply transcribing the complaints of next-door neighbors and the developer’s defense [The Works, September 30]. For one thing, the Near South Community Plan says nothing about a park on the northwest corner of Polk and Clark; it makes vague mention of the possibility on undeveloped land at Taylor and Clark. Besides, two parks already exist within 400 feet of the Terrapin site, and a new 3.5-acre park a block to the south is required to be dedicated to the city when the surrounding land is developed. Joravsky’s claim that the plan “doesn’t call for new parking spaces” is curious, since the introduction (p. vii) says that “developers of new buildings should be required to provide new onsite parking.”
When discussing parking and traffic, it’s important to distinguish between commuter parking and residential “auto storage.” Does Break the Gridlock’s Michael Burton really think South Loop residents would be tempted to drive every day to offices in the Loop? Downtown residents seldom use their cars but may find it useful to own one. We may occasionally make a big shopping trip, visit the grandkids, drive to weekend homes, take mom to the doctor, or even reverse commute to a job in some remote suburb. As for congestion, which is more of a problem: residents occasionally taking their cars out on nights and weekends, or the existing 150-car commuter lot that fills and empties during rush hours?
It’s certainly worth asking why the city has abandoned its long-standing moratorium on parking garages within the Loop and why new office buildings (like 111 S. Wacker or 1 S. Dearborn) include several floors of commuter parking. But claiming that downtown residential parking leads to increased auto use is rather like claiming that condos built with formal dining rooms lead to more entertaining.
Ben Joravsky replies:
I overlooked the sentence in the plan calling for on-site parking in new developments, and I apologize for the oversight. But I think McClendon underestimates the need for parks in the South Loop, particularly given the pace of development. There are no parks within 400 feet of the Terrapin site; the closest is the grove of trees behind Dearborn Station, about two blocks away. And there are no concrete plans to build a 3.5-acre park south of Polk and Clark, though the Near South Community Plan endorses the concept. It also recommends that the parking lot at the northwest corner of Polk and Clark be considered for “new public plazas and open spaces.”